De­bate was a dis­ap­point­ing sea­son opener

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - LIVING - Tony Leodora Colum­nist

And the de­bate sea­son is in full swing.

Swing might be the op­er­a­tive word … as both Hilary Clin­ton and Don­ald Trump came out swing­ing dur­ing last week’s first-of-three de­bates. And more of the same can be ex­pected when vice pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nees Tim Kaine and Mike Pence square off in their one meet­ing to­mor­row night.

More than 84 mil­lion Amer­i­cans watched the first de­bate – a record­break­ing au­di­ence. The pre­vi­ous record of 80 mil­lion view­ers goes all the way back to the de­bate be­tween Ron­ald Rea­gan and Pres­i­dent Jimmy Carter in 1980.

How many of the 84 mil­lion view­ers were dis­ap­pointed by what they saw is still not clear. One thing for sure, those who wanted to see blood­shed in that first de­bate def­i­nitely were among the dis­ap­pointed.

Trump had plenty of chances to “go for the jugu­lar,” but did not strike. Whether it was be­cause he was un­pre­pared or be­cause he made a con­scious de­ci­sion to paint a “pres­i­den­tial” por­trait is un­known. Only those in his in­ner circle hold the an­swer.

Clin­ton, on the other hand, had her claws sharp­ened. She went af­ter her op­po­nent on is­sues con­cern­ing his tax re­turns and his treat­ment of a Miss Uni­verse con­tes­tant more than 20 years ago. How­ever, Clin­ton’s jabs lacked the de­struc­tive force some of her sup­port­ers wanted to see be­cause they came in her typ­i­cally scripted form … and were de­liv­ered with the con­stant, painted-on smile that was ob­vi­ously part of her pre-de­bate strat­egy.

There was no doubt that she was not smil­ing inside, as Trump de­liv­ered some of his ac­cu­sa­tions about failed in­ter­na­tional poli­cies and a faulty eco­nomic plan to con­tinue the snail’s-pace re­cov­ery dur­ing the Barack Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Of course, al­most as im­por­tant as the de­bate – in terms of sway­ing pub­lic sen­ti­ment – is the post-de­bate anal­y­sis from the me­dia. And the pub­lic polls. They can re­flect two vastly dif­fer­ent opin­ions, since the main­stream me­dia seems to be squarely in the cor­ner of Clin­ton. The widely crit­i­cized work of mod­er­a­tor Lester Holt dur­ing the pres­i­den­tial de­bate is prime ev­i­dence of that fact.

But, out of the haze cre­ated by the de­bate and the post-de­bate anal­y­sis, I was sur­prised to see an al­most-for­got­ten im­age emerge from decades ago.

It was my ju­nior year at Vil­lanova Univer­sity. Car­ry­ing a dou­ble-ma­jor in his­tory and po­lit­i­cal science, I was en­ter­ing the meat of my cho­sen cur­ricu­lum. In this par­tic­u­lar po­lit­i­cal science class, two teams were se­lected for a de­bate. The rest of the class served as the au­di­ence.

I was part of one three-stu­dent team – the one that clearly won the de­bate. But I was far from the star. In fact, in large part, I sat back and watched the de­bate bril­liance of one of my


He was a Cuban refugee. His fam­ily es­caped Cuba in 1959, dur­ing the heat of Fidel Cas­tro’s bloody as­cent to power.

His fa­ther owned a small sugar plan­ta­tion. It was one of the properties tar­geted for con­fis­ca­tion by the com­mu­nist rebels.

At the last mo­ment, with noth­ing but the clothes on their backs and what­ever gold they could hide in their mouths, the fam­ily boarded a pri­vate plane to leave their is­land home for­ever. As bul­lets ripped through the fuse­lage of the plane, the fam­ily made a mirac­u­lous es­cape and settled in South Florida.

As was typ­i­cal for so many of the Cuban refugees from that era, they worked hard and forged a very suc­cess­ful life in Amer­ica. Per­haps it was the strug­gles of his early child­hood that made this refugee-turned-Vil­lanova-po­lit­i­cal-sci­ences­tu­dent such a pas­sion­ate and fo­cused de­bater.

His per­for­mance that day was elo­quent, or­ga­nized, fit­tingly emo­tional and con­vinc­ing. He left no doubt in the minds of the au­di­ence that his point of view was the cor­rect one.

At this point, it is prob­a­bly pie-in-the-sky dream­ing to hope for some­what of the same per­for­mance from those who will be squarely in the spot­light dur­ing this de­bate sea­son. They have al­ready showed their strate­gies … and their weak­nesses.

It’s prob­a­bly too late for these two leop­ards to change their spots. But they most cer­tainly could have learned a great les­son from that Vil­lanova po­lit­i­cal science class … so many years ago. Tony Leodora is pres­i­dent of TL Golf Ser­vices, host of the weekly GolfTalk Live ra­dio show on WNTP 990-AM and host of the Trav­el­ing Golfer tele­vi­sion show — as well as ed­i­tor of GolfStyles mag­a­zine. He is for­mer sports ed­i­tor of The Times Herald. Send com­ments to tl­go­lf­ser­

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